The Blackjack Table
Like all casino table games, Blackjack is played at specially designed table that is configured for optimum ease of play and maximum security. Also, because Blackjack is a social game, involving considerable interaction between the players and the dealer, certain procedures have been developed to utilize the table layout to everyone’s best advantage
Green felt is the preferred covering for the table surface, although some casinos have introduced blue, red, and other colors. Felt is a soft material across which the cards slide easily, as do items made of glass or ceramics. To prevent spills, a wood or leather-covered rail usually surrounds the playing surface, with built-in or insertable cup holders and ashtrays on the player’s side of the table. It may also feature chip trays, although most players prefer to stack their chips on the felt directly in front of them against the rail.
The Dealer’s Side
Only the dealer and pit supervisors are allowed to stand on the dealer’s side of the table. Spectators may watch from the sides or behind the players, but never from behind the dealer. This rule is in place to reduce the possibility of cheating and to avoid disturbing the dealer as he/she works.
Located to the dealer’s immediate left is the shoe or deck from which cards are dealt. Directly to the dealer’s right is the discard tray for collecting used cards. Faceless plastic marker cards used for shuffling and cutting may be tucked under the edge of the tray.
In front the dealer is a grooved rack, which contains the chips used in play. Typically, the chips are ordered with the lower denominations in the outer grooves and the higher ones on the inside to protect against anyone trying to reach in and grab a handful.
To the dealer’s far left, one or two slots may appear in the table surface. The one that is narrow and a bit wide is a cash slot used to drop paper currency into a locked metal box fixed beneath the table’s surface. The smaller one, if installed, is where chips or coins are inserted, which the dealer has received as tips. When there is no tip slot, many dealers keep tips in the breast pocket of their shirt. Others stack them next to the discard tray.
In the middle of the table above the chip rack, a small L-shaped piece of metal may protrude from the surface, framing an imbedded glass rectangle. This is the “peek window,” used by the dealer to peek at the hole card when his/her up card is an Ace or a card valued at ten. A mirror beneath the glass allows the value of the hole card to be seen, only by the dealer, without picking up or bending the corner of the card. Note that not all tables have this feature.
At one end of the table, facing away from the dealer, will be a Table Limits sign that indicates the minimum and maximum bets allowed. It may also describe other betting rules, such as how many times a hand may be split or what double down rules are in effect. In the center of the table, also facing way from the dealer, a brief outline of the House Rules is printed. It indicates the payout for a blackjack, whether insurance bets are offered, and whether the dealer stands on all 17s or draws to soft 17.
The Player’s Side
Circles or rectangles printed on the player’s side of the table serve as the betting area for each participant. The number of such betting areas indicates how many players the table can accommodate—typically five, six, or seven. These are sometimes called “betting spots.” The first one to the dealer’s left is also known as “first base” and the last one to the dealer’s right is “third base.”
Chips can be kept in the rail racks, if available, or stacked on the felt in front of the player. Any chip touching the perimeter of the spot or placed inside the betting area is considered to be wagered. A chip positioned on the edge of the betting area toward the dealer is treated as a tip bet for the dealer. Chips positioned wholly within the betting area are bets for the player, and chips anywhere else on the edge are treated as a “rider bet” made by another player or spectator on the player’s hand.
A basic knowledge of Blackjack etiquette is expected of players at the table. This includes the use of hand signs to indicate desired actions during play, such as scratching on the table surface for a “hit” or waving over the cards to “stand.” Ambiguous signals, such as knocking on the table or waving a single finger, should be avoided.
Touching of wagered chips after a hand has begun is prohibited. To increase a bet for doubling down or splitting, the required amount of additional chips should be pushed toward the dealer, who will position them correctly in the betting area. Never stack the chips on top of the original bet.
Many tables, especially those dealing single- or double-deck Blackjack, do not allow new players to enter the game “mid-round.” They must wait until the next shuffle. On the other hand, tables which use a multi-deck shoe usually allow players to enter before the deal of any hand.
To buy in and receive chips, the player places currency on the table toward the dealer and beyond the betting area. Chips are dispensed by the dealer in stacks from the rack, colored white for one unit ($1/€1/£1), red for five units, green for 25, and black for 100. Currency placed in the betting area is considered a wager at most casinos, which the dealer will acknowledge by calling out, “Money plays!”